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Previous BRs - Authors; E - H > Follett, Ken; Fall of Giants ; "Informal Buddy Read"; Start date 21 October, 2019

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message 1: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (new)

Moderators of NBRC | 30934 comments Mod


What is a Buddy Read?

This is an "Informal Buddy Read"

An “Informal Buddy Read” doesn’t have a discussion leader and participants are asked to consider some generic questions when making comments about the book. An example is here.

Book Synopsis
This is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. This is a huge novel that follows five families through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women.
It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V. The Williams, a Welsh coal-mining family is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to emigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. In a plot of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, "Fall Of Giants" moves seamlessly from Washington to St Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty.

NOTE: This was originally a buddy read in 2013, which can be reviewed here


message 2: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (new)

Moderators of NBRC | 30934 comments Mod
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message 3: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
I just checked the library and the first version I saw was over 1300 pages....
large print
lol


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments Wow, my copy has a mere 851...

Thanks for setting this up Karen. It feels like a Tower Team Challenge when buddy reading weighty tomes are included, LOL.


message 5: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
haha yes, absolutely


message 6: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments My mom has been urging me to read this for years… maybe now it’s time to get started.


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments Judy wrote: "My mom has been urging me to read this for years… maybe now it’s time to get started."

Do join in Judy. Buddy reading is always fun and triple the fun when the book is three times longer, lol!!


message 8: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments I might as well! That's definitely true 😂 and with all the points on offer for TT... very tempting! 😉


message 9: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Oh yes come and join us Judy.

Lisa and I always seem to find a very long book to read during tower teams. I struggle to fit them in otherwise!


message 10: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments Wellllllll I already picked up the audiobook from my library so I can switch off the format so I guess I'm ready 😉


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments Judy wrote: "Wellllllll I already picked up the audiobook from my library so I can switch off the format so I guess I'm ready 😉"


Great Judy. Look forward to reading with you.


message 12: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments Me too! I have high hopes for this one!


message 13: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Woohoo


message 14: by Logan (new)

Logan (loganturner) | 1499 comments This looks good! I read Pillars of the Earth and enjoyed it so I will give this a go.


message 15: by Missy (new)

Missy | 3 comments Hello I am new to this group and I was wondering the long buddy reads that you guys do what is the time frame you guys normally finish them? I am curious cause I have 3 kids and a full time job and just want to make sure I can commit and do the discussions because that is the whole reason I joined this group cause reading and discussing makes reading even better lol. Thanks in advance


message 16: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Welcome Logan nice to see you again!

Hi missy and welcome to the group! This is a big book and I will be reading it slow - my goal is to have it done by mid December. You can read at your own pace as those who are reading faster will put comments under spoiler tags :)


message 17: by Sonya (new)

Sonya marie madden | 150 comments I want to read this


message 18: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Has anyone started yet? I have my exam today so hope to at least get a few chapters in later today or tomorrow


message 19: by Logan (new)

Logan (loganturner) | 1499 comments I haven’t yet but I will this week.


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments I'm going to get it off the bookshelf today.. and try and read a section each week.


message 21: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments I actually started a couple nights ago! (But then I completely forgot to let you guys know yesterday...)

The prologue was a bit hard to get into, with sooooo many characters being shoved at you at once - but after 10 pages or so, I started to get the hang of it and now in part 1, I wasn't struggling as much anymore (even though there were all these new characters). The character overview at the start is gold!


message 22: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments Update from me: I just made it to page 200 and the war is about to begin!

I'm really enjoying it as I like the story and it's definitely fast-paced, but so far none of the characters really have me on their side...


message 23: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (last edited Oct 26, 2019 04:09PM) (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
I'm in chapter 6.

When I started it was a few days after I watched Billy Elliott the musical ; so the descriptions of the coal miners (even though this is an earlier time period) were really interesting. Kind of cemented for me how much the coal industry impacted on communities in Britain.

So the switch to the next set of, affluent, characters was a bit jarring and I wanted to go back to the mines! haha. But now we have the whole romance happening and the Archduke has just been shot, things are getting very interesting!!

The style reminds me quite a bit of Edward Rutherfurd which we have also read during TTs so it is a perfect fit :)
I am listening to the audio and I can't believe I'm already almost 7 hours in. It doesn't feel like it at all. I have the book reserved at the library and it hadn't come in yet. Maybe I'll finish the audio before it does? lol


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments That's interesting Karen. I just heard a report this week that the UK once so dependent on coal is now moving in the opposite direction and will be carbon neutral in about one or two decades.

I'm hoping to start this week.


message 25: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Wow that is so interesting to consider, Lisa!


message 26: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments I keep wanting to let you guys know about my progress but I keep forgetting... I'm now somewhere in the middle of chapter 32, about 150 pages away from the end.

This book has been so interesting to me cause my knowledge about WWI is quite insular - we mostly skipped it in school cause the school year was over by the time we got around to it (my teacher had bad time management skills) and then a couple years ago I had a lecture series about America in WWI which was interesting, but obviously only discussed anything the U.S. were involved in. So this book is definitely filling in some gaps and clearing things up - and teaching me a lot about what went on in Russia at the time, which I knew next to nothing about.

I really enjoy the way Follett considers different perspectives and arguments in the war and focuses most of the story on what happens off the battlefield and outside of the trenches (the only other WWI book I've read was Birdsong which was nearly exclusively trenches). I especially love that women's suffrage plays a fairly big role - I wasn't expecting that!

The "chance" meetings between the characters sometimes seem a bit contrived but oh well, I like that kind of stuff so I forgive him. I also appreciate that not all characters are good and nice people, even though that makes me mad every time we get to their perspective... but it just makes the whole story more realistic and it's kind of fun to root against some of these people (while also vaguely rooting for them - they are after all protagonists). Spoilers for Chapter 17: (view spoiler)


message 27: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments Aaaaaaaand I'm done! I really, really liked this and am definitely going to pick up the next book soon.


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments I finally made a start and read a few pages before bed last night.

Judy, that's why I love reading these huge books filled with different characters' perspectives of history. Gives us an insight into these important aspects of history that still impact on us today.

I'm enjoying the Welsh perspective, I'm hoping to go there on holidays next year.


message 29: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "I keep wanting to let you guys know about my progress but I keep forgetting... I'm now somewhere in the middle of chapter 32, about 150 pages away from the end.

This book has been so interesting t..."


I find it so interesting how many American's weren't taught about WWI or WWII in school - you aren't the first person to tell me that! I think it shows how school systems in every country bias their teaching to what they consider important. I remember being taught about the "Great Wars" and it was very much from t he angle of why Australia went so far away to join a war that arguably wouldn't have really affected them, and how much we lost by comparison to other Allies when you consider our population #s. And I remember we had a very brief overview of Vietnam and basically nothing about Korea!

Anyhow, I must read more HF than I thought as I have a self-imposed WWII ban which I put in place about 2 years ago. lol! I just had a run of every.single.book being WWII and I needed a break. haha
Like you, I have found this one particularly interesting with the story weaving between Germany, Russia, Britain, America and the suffragette movement.

I agree the chance encounters are convenient, but then I guess sometimes that does happen in life ; we tend to stay in the same "circles". And maybe particularly back then with the class system people were even more insular. With your spoiler, I was also kind of disappointed. haha. But also felt like he is a good "baddie" in the story to keep


message 30: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
I'm in chapter 21.
I don't think I could love Ethel more.! What a great character, and I love everyone around her ; and the relationship with Maud is really nice.
I quite like the glimpse into German life too ; (view spoiler)


message 31: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "Aaaaaaaand I'm done! I really, really liked this and am definitely going to pick up the next book soon."

Well done!
This is an easy read despite it's size :)


message 32: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments Karen ⊰✿ wrote: " I find it so interesting how many American's weren't taught about WWI or WWII in school - you aren't the first person to tell me that!"

Not American, but German, which is probably even worse! (For context: We are supposed to do quite a bit on WWI, but our teacher was also part of the administration and suuuuper busy so sometimes he forgot that he was supposed to teach our class, too... and we also had him in English and we spent at least a month talking about the American Revolution (in English!) which was cool but definitely not on the schedule for that year 😂) I remember that we ended up watching a documentary on how the war started and then we had summer break - and the next school year, we started with the end of the war & treaty of Versailles, so I guess the actually important part of the war (looking toward what was to come) was still there... just not everything that was gruesome in the middle.

We then spent a full year discussing everything that led up to WWII and the atrocities committed there in excruciating detail, so I guess most of our WWI education was laying the groundwork to understand how it caused WWII.


message 33: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments Karen ⊰✿ wrote: "I'm in chapter 21.
I don't think I could love Ethel more.! What a great character, and I love everyone around her ; and the relationship with Maud is really nice."


Completely agree! I wasn't sure about her at the beginning but she really grew into my favorite character and just an all-around great person!


message 34: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Oh sorry Judy! I think I had you mixed in my head with Judith and didn’t realise you were German.
I was also wondering about Ethel at the start but I really like the development of her character so far!


message 35: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments No problem, even I get myself mixed up with Judith sometimes 😂 (I go by Judith 90% of the time)


message 36: by Lisa - (Aussie Girl) (last edited Nov 03, 2019 07:16PM) (new)

Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments Judy, I hope I'm not overstepping but I'm curious about how the history of the two World Wars are taught in Germany? Is it a clinical facts based type of education or more an exercise in how everything played out and the ramifications?

I've been to the Museum of the Third Reich in Nuremburg which was so well thought out and sensitive to the history.


message 37: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments No worries, Lisa!

(Sorry this turned out so long...)

First off, a disclaimer: Germany has 16 states and everyone does more or less their own thing when it comes to education plus there are several "levels" of education and people are split up, so what we learn in school varies quite a bit. I went to school in Bavaria fwiw.

We are actually supposed to do it in two steps, first facts and then a couple years later the analysis of the society, but that wasn't what I experienced. We already did a quite an in-depth analysis of what led up to the war in the first round.
It's very much a "how did we let it come so far? What was wrong in society and politics that allowed this war and the holocaust to happen?" instead of "Hitler was evil and millions of people died".

I don't think it was just my teachers messing up when we barely learned anything about WWI - I think it's mostly seen as a springboard to discuss how and why we started the holocaust & WWII.

So there's a lot of discussion and analysis of the Treaty of Versailles, the Weimar Republic, the rise of the NSDAP and the many reasons why they appealed to people at the time, how the constitution allowed Hitler to take over, the propaganda apparatus, etc. Then of course the the war itself, but battles etc. are basically not mentioned (it's more of a "and then Germany invaded Poland anyway, even though they had signed a nonagression pact five days ago") and the vast majority of what we learn about is the holocaust. There's also some time spent on the resistance, e.g. the White Rose, the assassination attempts on Hitler.

Every class takes a field trip to a concentration camp at least once and my class went to Buchenwald. To this day, that was probably the most horrible experience of my life - I've never been as cold nor felt so bad. Like, I'm not much of a spiritual person or believe in ghosts or anything like that, but you could really feel that atrocious things were done there. It was absolutely horrifying in every single way.

We also went to the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände in Nuremberg (which I think is the same place you went) which was really informative and sensitive, I agree. Another thing we did in school was invite a contemporary witness who told us about his experience in the war (he was drafted as a 16-year-old in 1944 when they'd run out of adults and became a gunner).

Unfortunately, my one set of grandparents are too young (born in 1938 & 39) to remember anything. My other grandfather who had actually fought in the war died when I was 7, but my mom said he didn't want to talk about that time - everything she knew from him was what she'd overheard him talking about with his friends from a veteran's group. He was conscripted fairly late as he had a disability and from what I know became an American POW fairly quickly and spent a while in a POW camp. From my grandma (who was a teenager at the time) I only know how glad she was that the Americans occupied in their area and not the Russians (cause they raped less and brought food).

I now live in Munich which, as the birth place of the NSDAP and where Hitler started out from, is chock-full of memorials. I actually went to the White Rose memorial for the first time just a couple of weeks ago which was very interesting and well-done and I regret not going earlier. (It's inside the main building of the university I just graduated from - and the addresses of the main buildings are named after the most famous members of the White Rose.) I haven't yet been to the NS-Dokumentationszentrum and I really have to remedy that - I've heard it's also very well done. There are also the Stolpersteine all over the city (and throughout Europe, I just learned) and memorial plaques just about everywhere - e.g. when I go to the library, I walk past the spot where the Bürgerbräukeller used to be (where Hitler started his coup in 1923 and where later one of the most famous assassination attempts took place).

All in all I think we did our very best to educate and make clear to everyone that absolutely nothing about Nazi Germany was good, should be condoned, let alone repeated.

But unfortunately, recent years have shown that wasn't quite as successful as we were hoping and our far-right quasi-Nazi party AfD has been celebrating success after success since they were formed just 6 years ago. And seeing that this is happening all around the world is just awful and makes me both sad and angry - apparently either many didn't learn from the past, or have already forgotten.

(And sorry this ended on that note... but I don't think it is possible to talk about today's view of the 1930s & 50s without taking into account what's actually happening now.)


message 38: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Thank you for taking the time to write all of that Judy. I find it fascinating and was interested too, so I'm glad Lisa asked the question :)


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments Judy, thanks so very much for your insightful and considered answer to my question. I really appreciate it. When I went to Nuremburg I got the same feeling. And unfortunately, you're right. Germany is not the only place in the world where right wing extremism has reared it's ugly head.


message 40: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments You're welcome! :-)


message 41: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
I had to put this aside to read my “bad book”, but I’m getting back to it today!


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments I'm up to Chapter 10.

I'm actually enjoying the recount on "The Causes of WWI", a HSC (our final school examination here in Australia) Modern History topic from all those moons ago. Follett writes in such an easy reading style so it's not dry and boring by bringing in how it actually affected people at the time. How awful for Maud and Walter being on opposite sides of a World War.

I think Ethel is my favourite character so far although Billy has potential. Ethel's plight really highlights the age old problem for women, literally left holding the baby. Such an unfair world in so many ways.


message 43: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Yes so true, Lisa. We have come a long way when you think about how women were the ones "at fault" and often forced into poverty if they had a baby without being married


message 44: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (last edited Nov 10, 2019 03:29PM) (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
Chapter 31

I think one of the most interesting things for me with this book is the contrast of the activities happening in the world with those happening to the characters. The whole "I am better than you" concept is seen during WWI, but also with the class system in the UK and with the revolution happening in Russia.
I really really dislike Fitzpatrick! He continues to show himself as an nonredeemable character. The whole interaction with the Doctor when his second child was born. Ah! I was glad the Doctor stood up to him.
I feel bad for Maud and do wonder what will happen next with her and Walter. I can't imagine how hard it would be to be attached to someone who is now your "enemy".
Ethel remains my favourite, although I haven't seen her for a little while. Looking forward to her returning to the story soon


message 45: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
I finished!
Such a big book, but it didn't drag at all. I quite like how at the end we get into prohibition and I really LOVED the ending. (view spoiler)
This certainly has me keen to read more Follett despite the size of his books


message 46: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments Yay, congrats!

That was such a good scene, go Ethel! 😍


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments Well, I'm well into Part 2 now.

I just hope there isn't too many battle scenes and details because I always glaze over when reading these, as terrible as that sounds. I much prefer the interactions between characters and retelling of historical events and how they affected the people of the time which up to this stage Follett has done in such an interesting way.


message 48: by Karen ⊰✿, Fiction Aficionado (new)

Karen ⊰✿ | 14344 comments Mod
I didn't feel it got bogged down, so hopefully you will find it picks up again quickly :)


message 49: by Judy (new)

Judy | 1977 comments I was actually surprised by how little detailed battle action there was


Lisa - (Aussie Girl) | 5008 comments I've finished!! And it was a very enjoyable read indeed. Luckily not too many battle scenes either. It was a very gentle history lesson and definitely the strength was the interaction between characters. I think he actually does this a bit better than Rutherfurd who also writes a great historical tome but sometimes the characters' links are a little more tenuous. I think someone pointed out that there were a great deal of coincidences and serendipitous meetings throughout ( such as Maud and Walter happening to meet in the park) but it didn't lessen the enjoyment at all.

And I did learn something interesting that made me go.. Oh ahhh… The origin of the terms left and right wing in relation to the Russian Parliament before the Bolshevik revolution.

Ethel was the greatest and yes I definitely smiled in that last scene.

Anyone up to tackling the next book, next year? Winter of the World (The Century Trilogy #2) by Ken Follett


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Winter of the World (other topics)

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